I kept thinking about the things I wrote about body image and wearing a bikini at forty and realized there were some important things that were left unwritten in the first post. I’ve corrected my omission below.
As I watched the recent Oscars broadcast with friends, a comment was made about one actress’s bones prominently protruding at her shoulders. The comment struck me. It was harmless enough, but to my sensitive ears, there was just a hint of disdain. I saw myself standing on that red carpet. The bones at the top of my shoulders protrude like hers. And news flash: there’s nothing I can do to make them stop doing that. Perhaps this actress could buck the Hollywood trend and eat more (if that in fact is the issue), but for me eating more won’t change my bony frame. I’ve tried.
Disapproving comments seem rude only when aimed at women who struggle with their weight. (And that, as we all have heard, doesn’t stop the comments from coming.) But I can personally attest to the fact that when someone suggests that perhaps I am anorexic she is not paying me a compliment. She's being rude.
Being inherently skinny in a weight-obsessed culture is a tricky place to dwell because of two assumptions that are readily made. These assumptions lump me in with groups of women with whom I do not self-identify: women who work hard at staying thin and women who struggle with eating disorders.
I have simply inherited slimness from an unlikely source—my maternal grandfather. I also have a diminished sense of smell, which impacts my enjoyment of eating because most food tastes bland. On top of that, I am a stress non-eater, so when life presses down especially hard, my appetite evaporates. I can go a long time without feeling hunger. The combination of these three things contributes to my slim build.
I find myself in an unpopulated category. Enviably slim, but underweight with little hope of gaining weight. Who in America has THAT problem? Two different doctors have reminded me that I’m “a tall drink of water” and that this thinness of mine is not an affliction. They have encouraged me to enjoy being thin with the underestanding that I might gain weight as I age.
Making my way through all of this, I realize that for a long time I have worried about what people who do not know me might think about my skinny frame and the assumptions they might make. And as I type this, I realize part of owning that pink and charcoal bikini this summer means not caring one damn bit. I know the skinny on my being skinny and that's all that matters.
For years I loathed clothes shopping. It was rarely fun. It took trying on forty pairs of jeans to find two that fit. Not two that I liked, but two that simply fit. Those days are behind me. I am far more comfortable in my skin at 40. I know what looks good on tall and lean and I gravitate to those things. I wear skirts and boots because I have great legs. I even wear skinny jeans.
Most importantly, I am mothering a daughter. Though our body types are different, I want her to watch me be kind and compassionate toward myself and my body. One way I can demonstrate that is when I confidently wear my new bikini with my chin lifted, my shoulders back, and a smile on my face. No more hiding. No more worrying.